The perils of predicting the future…

If you’re going to predict the future, you’d better be prepared to be spectacularly wrong…

Excerpt from an immigrant’s journal, written near “Sacramento City,” California, September 18, 1849:

“As for living in this country, it is too poor for man, beast, or the devil. The hills are so poor and parched up that they can scarcely hold up the rocks on their tops. I was reading Henry Clay’s speech, on the 13th of March last, on his compromise Bill in which he expressed the opinion that the immigrants to California, like those to Louisiana, will in ninety cases out of a hundred become permanent citizens. If Clay were to come out here he would take that back, for it appears to me that he just as well link heaven and hell in the same speech, as Louisiana and California. I have never seen a man yet, among all the vast crowd that are here, who thinks of remaining longer than he can make a raise; and all that some ask is enough to go home on.”

Fayette Boys en route to California, 1849,” in the Merrill J. Mattes Collection on the Oregon-California Trails Association website.



  1. Greg:
    To be fair to the poor guy, a whole lot of ’49’ers did end up going back from whence they came, after spending considerable time hoping to strike it rich scrabbling for gold – and many ended up working at low wages to help get someone else rich. California was, and is, mostly a desert, and it took having command of considerable resources to make it pay off in a big way.

    1. True that a ton of Gold Rushers went back and forth between the Pacific Slope and “The States.” That has surprised me. But a lot of them stayed, too–the 1860 census recorded 308,000 people in the state.

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